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Smuggling May Wreck Buhari’s Economic Policy—Saraki Warns

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Smuggling May Wreck Buhari’s Economic Policy—Saraki Warns

Smuggling May Wreck Buhari’s Economic Policy—Saraki Warns

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Smuggling of goods into the country has been identified by the Senate President, Mr Bukola Saraki, as the greatest threat to the realization of the economic policies of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

While declaring open on Monday a public hearing on tackling smuggling in the country organized by the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariffs at the National Assembly, Abuja, the number three citizen of Nigeria stressed that unless the monster of smuggling was tamed, efforts being made to diversify the economy from oil would not yield expected results.

In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu, the Senate President called on the Committee and all the stakeholders present at the hearing to come up with relevant recommendations on the way forward to save the nation’s farmers, small scale industries and financial institutions from impending crisis.

“My personal presence here this morning along with the leader of the Senate is to make a point of the importance that this senate places on this subject matter,” Mr Saraki said.

“For me personally, it is my view that the singular greatest threat to our economy is this issue of smuggling. What is militating against the success of our government is this issue of smuggling,” he added.

The singular greatest threat to the delivery of the promises made by President Muhammadu Buhari on the diversification of the economy is this issue of smuggling.

“The level of smuggling that we are seeing cannot continue because they will definitely rubbish all the policies of government if allowed to go on. I am saying that with all sincerity and all level of responsibility and I tell you why. Today, the greatest threat to small holder farmers is smuggling.

“Today, rice farmers who have gone to take loans either from the CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) or from commercial banks are being threatened by rice coming in from across the borders at highly subsidized rate.

“The meaning of that is that the imported rice will always be cheaper than those produced by our local farmers.

“A time will come, if we do not do anything that these farmers will not be able to pay their loans to the banks and this will result in serious crisis.

“The banks that have given loans to these farmers, will also have crisis in their hands. And for the central bank that has intervened with billions of Naira again will not be able to recoup their money.

“The processors who have invested in rice mills at the beginning of this administration will also be threatened if we do not address the issue of rice smuggling,” he said.

Mr Saraki also stated that if smuggling is not stopped, the over $7billion invested by the government in the last 10 years to stimulate local production will go to waste.

“As a country we have invested over $7billion over the last 10 years in stimulating local production,” Saraki said. “If we do not address the area of smuggling, this investment will go to waste. This is the severity of the issue before us today.

“Any institution, whether it is the National Assembly or any other one, in order to support the success of our President, we must join to stop smuggling, without it, we should just forget the issue of diversification or increased agricultural production.

“We will only pay lip service to issue of agricultural production if we do not address the issue of smuggling and that is why I made it a point to come here personally to drive this message.

“I am confident that with the caliber of members of this Committee and the stakeholders here, that we will use this opportunity to come out with robust solutions on the way forward”, the Senate President.

He insisted that smugglers must be stopped to prevent them from further sabotaging the economy.

“There is no government, any serious government, that will render itself helpless because we must know the individuals who are doing this smuggling. We must be able to know who they are. Is it that they are larger and bigger than government?

“Is it that we cannot stop them? Or is it that we don’t want to stop them? Or is that we lack the competence to stop them? These are the questions that we put before us today. We must stop them. Customs must do what it takes to stop smuggling. These are the largest economic saboteurs that are ruining our economy. We must be able to identify them. They must be made to realize that we are serious about this issue.

“We must be able to sanction officers who are responsible for this and we must be able to reward officers who prevent the issue of smuggling. We want this Committee to sit down for the length of days of public hearing and ask ourselves what is the way forward. I can assure you that our responsibility as a Senate is to ensure that whatever recommendations are made by this Committee we have to send them back to the executive because as I said this matter is the singular greatest threat to our economy and to this government”, he said.

The Senate President noted that while Nigeria must continue to respect international treaties, it cannot afford to do so at the detriment of its economy.

“There are other issues, of course, that have to do with the ECOWAS treaties and agreements,” Saraki said. “Yes, we are part of ECOWAS. Yes, we want to develop ECOWAS, but no serious country will allow anything that will ruin its economy at the benefit of its neighbouring countries.

“We must be able to do what is right. So on this note, all hands must be on deck to ensure that we address this problem squarely. I assure you of the greatest support of this Senate,” Mr Saraki said at the hearing.

He urged the Comptroller General of Customs, Colonel Hamid Ali to prove his mettle by stopping the incidence of smuggling across the nation’s borders.

“To the Comptroller General of Customs, let me say on a lighter note, that once you end smuggling, even if you want to wear jeans and T-Shirt, I will move the motion that you should wear jeans and T-Shirt,” Saraki said. “But on a serious note, this issue is very important. Let us all work towards ending this menace once and for all.”

Earlier, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariffs, Mr Hope Uzodinma, said the public hearing was part of the committee’s holistic investigation into the operations of the Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS) with a view to identify the factors responsible for increasing rate of smuggling of goods into the country.

He said that the exercise was also aimed at proffering solutions to the menace of smuggling and recommend appropriate penalties to be visited on perpetrators.

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

Economy

Demand Pressure Jerks NGX All-Share Index to 54,213.09 points

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All-Share Index NGX

By Dipo Olowookere

The sustained demand for domestic stocks further raised the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited by 0.40 per cent on Friday, with the All-Share Index (ASI) crossing the 54,000-point threshold at the close of business.

The index, which measures the general performance of the bourse, appreciated by 214.97 points to settle at 54,213.09 points compared with the preceding day’s 53,998.12 points, as the market capitalisation expanded by N117 billion to close at N29.528 trillion as against Thursday’s closing value of N29.411 trillion.

The growth reported yesterday was supported by buying pressure across sectors of the market, though the consumer goods space came under selling pressure, losing 0.39 per cent.

However, this did not affect the outcome of the bourse due to the 1.06 per cent recorded by the banking counter, the 0.31 per cent expansion posted by the insurance sector, the 0.17 per cent growth printed by the energy counter, and the 0.04 per cent improvement reported by the industrial goods space.

Business Post reports that the market breadth remained positive on Friday, with 35 price gainers and 10 price losers, indicating a very strong investor sentiment.

Red Star Express, International Energy Insurance, and FTN Cocoa gained 10.00 per cent each yesterday to finish at N2.53, 99 Kobo, and 33 Kobo, respectively. MRS Oil gained 9.94 per cent to end at N19.35, and Northern Nigerian Flour Mills rose by 9.55 per cent to N9.75.

Conversely, Ikeja Hotel was the worst-performing stock after it dropped 10.00 per cent to 99 Kobo, Lasaco Assurance fell by 5.88 per cent to 96 Kobo, ABC Transport declined by 5.41 per cent to 35 Kobo, Universal Insurance went down by 4.76 per cent to 20 Kobo, and May & Baker shed 2.89 per cent to N4.71.

At the market yesterday, investors traded 268.02 million stocks worth N2.4 billion in 4,017 deals compared with the 2.9 billion stocks worth N8.1 billion traded in 3,940 deals on Thursday, indicating an increase in the number of deals by 1.95 per cent and a decline in the trading volume and value by 90.66 per cent and 70.37 per cent apiece.

Universal Insurance topped the activity chart after it sold 63.4 million shares, GTCO traded 20.8 million equities, Transcorp exchanged 19.5 million stocks, International Energy Insurance transacted 12.8 million equities, and Access Holdings traded 12.5 million shares.

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Economy

Naira Shortage: President Buhari Calls for Calm

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President Buhari

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

President Muhammadu Buhari has urged Nigerians to remain calm as they express their anger over the shortage of Naira in the financial system.

Since last week, many citizens of the country have been unable to access their funds in the banks because of a shortage in the supply of the redesigned Naira notes.

This has resulted in a huge crowd at banking premises across the nation, with several persons queuing at Automated Teller Machine (ATM) terminals waiting to withdraw their money with success.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) redesigned the N200, N500, and N1,000 denominations last year and said the old notes would no longer be legal tender from January 31, 2023.

However, while many Nigerians approached their banks last Sunday to quickly deposit their funds to beat the deadline, the CBN announced that the deadline had been moved to February 10, 2023.

The next day, while customers attempted to withdraw their funds over the counter, they were informed that the apex bank had directed them (commercial banks) not to honour cash withdrawal requests.

Also, cash withdrawal from ATMs was limited, making it very difficult for businesses to operate, triggering a protest in Ibadan on Friday.

When the demonstration was going on, Governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were meeting with President Buhari to persuade him to do something about the Naira scarcity.

After the gathering, he said in a social media post that, “I am aware of the cash shortages and hardship being faced by people and businesses on account of the Naira redesign.

“I want to assure you that we are doing everything to resolve these issues. Nigerians should expect significant improvements between now and the February 10 deadline.

“I met with a delegation of Governors today on the matter. All the complaints about the execution of the currency change are being seriously looked into.

“I will ensure that everything is resolved in a lasting manner, and we will all enjoy the long-term benefits of the decision.”

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Economy

Local Currency Appreciates at P2P, I&E, Depreciates at Black Market

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local currency nigeria

By Adedapo Adesanya

The local currency appreciated by N2 on the United States Dollar at the Peer-2-Peer (P2P) foreign exchange (FX) window, closing at N760/$1 on Friday, February 3, compared with the previous day’s N762/$1, indicating a form of ease as tensions rose across the country following a cash crunch that has triggered anger and aggression in some states.

President Muhammadu Buhari stepped in on Friday and pleaded with Nigerians to give him seven days to resolve the crisis caused by the scarcity of new Naira notes.

The President said he had seen reports about cash shortages and the effect on local businesses and ordinary people.

In the Investors and Exporters (I&E) segment, the Naira recorded a 50 Kobo or 0.11 per cent upward movement against the US Dollar to trade at N461.50/$1 compared with the preceding day’s N462.00/$1.

The day’s trading data showed that the value of forex transactions during the official market slightly increased by 3.54 per cent or $4.08 million to $119.43 million from the $115.35 million recorded a day before.

But in the black market, the Nigerian currency depreciated against the Dollar by N1 to close at N753/$1, in contrast to Thursday’s exchange rate of N752/$1.

In the interbank window, the domestic currency closed flat against the British Pound Sterling and the Euro on Friday at N568.32/£1 and N507.14/€1, respectively.

At the cryptocurrency market, there was a mixed outcome across the tokens tracked by Business Post as moves by the US Federal Reserve to raise rates by 25 basis points continued to send jittery signals.

Binance Coin (BNB) recorded a 2.8 per cent rise to sell at $329.32, Dogecoin (DOGE) grew by 2.4 per cent to trade at $0.0935, Solana (SOL) appreciated by 1.1 per cent to $24.49, Ethereum (ETH) improved by 0.9 per cent to $1,654.18, Cardano (ADA) recorded a 0.6 per cent addition to quote at $0.4006, while Litecoin (LTC) rose by 0.4 per cent to $99.15.

However, Bitcoin (BTC) declined by 0.7 per cent to trade at $23,356.32, and Ripple (XRP) recorded a 0.2 per cent slump to trade at $0.4092, while Binance USD (BUSD) and the US Dollar Tether (USDT) closed flat at $1.00 each.

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